CRISPR culture

CRISPR is a way of changing and replacing parts of DNA using enzymes like a pair of molecular scissors (of course things are more complex than this!). This new technology for ‘editing’ DNA, genes or genomes began to attract public attention between around 2012 and 2015. When I started to write about metaphors used to …

Making Science Public: End of year blog round-up, 2018

2018 is the year that the Leverhulme Trust funded programme ‘Making Science Public’ really ended (today our director Sujatha Raman is submitting the final report to the Leverhulme Trust). My last post on the programme, entitled ‘Making Science public: six years on’, mentioned one of the most important milestones of our work, namely the publication with Manchester …

Blueprint, a broken metaphor?

Three things came together that made me write this post: observing an increased discussion of the blueprint metaphor in genetics and genomics around the publication of a book called Blueprint, reading an old article by George Gamow, and reading a footnote in a forthcoming book by Philip Ball entitled How to Build a Human. The …

Phage and fiction

We have known about bacteriophages for over a century. I myself became vaguely aware of them around 2004 when I started to be interested in bacteria and antimicrobial resistance and later on when my mother had Clostridium difficile, a health-care associated infection related to antibiotic use. However, I never actually looked more closely at phages until Carmen …

The vertical rod in the center of the DNA molecule

A while ago I read this tweet by Kindra Crick: “Odile Crick, my grandmother, drew the first published diagram of #DNA It was 65 years ago #onthisday, as a diagram in the first of the three papers published in @nature on the structure of DNA. (Watson & Crick, Wilkins et al, Franklin & Gosling) #SciArt …

In the shadow of Frankenstein: Mapping and manipulating genes and genomes

I was starting to prepare a talk for Pint of Science in May, for “The Body” strand, which this year here in Nottingham focuses on regenerative medicine and genetic engineering. It’s entitled “GMYou”. I know, it’s a long way off, but they needed a title and so I began to muse. In the end I …

Biology and sociology: estrangement and entanglement

Ever since my PhD, I have been fascinated by the interplay, interrelations, mutual inspirations, struggle and strife between various disciplines that began to establish themselves during the 19th century, such as linguistics (which became the focus of my research), sociology, biology and so on. In recent years, a little flood of literature has emerged that …

Genome editing: Invisible mending

Last week I had a few days in Oxford to visit old haunts, such as the Ashmolean, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I also went to a little exhibition in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science. The exhibition by Anna Dumitriu was entitled BioArt and Bacteria. …